This post has caught me a bit off guard [so to speak] so my apologies for a very disjointed answer – however, I will NOT apologise if anyone feels I have ‘trodden on toes’ in certain parts of this answer = I have been involved in breeding Orps my whole life – the Cuckoo and Black have been in my family since 1947 [and I am NOT young]
All this content is MY opinion only and others are more than welcome to come in and post their own ideas/advise
First and foremost – DON’T BUY ON IMPULSE
as you WILL get burnt [usually big time!!!!] only buy at Auction IF you have a long time breeder/exhibitor there to help you decide = when ‘viewing/examining’ the birds prior to the start of the auction they WILL take yr arm and walk you away if the birds are not good enough = well I would anyway!!!! Actually I have done that
Always do your homework – make sure the breeder is well known to be reputable/honest [some really are only trying to ‘cash in’ and sell everything crap included!].
I have no concerns about anyone contacting the Club and asking about me, but if a breeder seems unnerved when you say you are going to contact the ‘Club’ = walk away! The Club can advise if the breeder exhibits birds regularly and if so the quality of same – this can help to establish if the lines are good.
Always acquire the best birds you can – always acquire them from a reputable breeder [and trust me there are some ‘clunkers’ out there just hatching stacks and selling all regardless of quality] = if possible WAIT another 5-6months after you decide to get the breed and save a bit more = go the extra few yards to get good birds from good lines = it is worth the wait!
OK - here we go [baring in mind I am VERY caffeine deprive today
The Orpington is NOT hard to keep they are just bigger than other breeds – the only others that compare size wise in OZ are the Brahma and the Jersey Giant [YES the JGs are here just not exhibited by the owners, note tho that they are actually smaller than both Orp and Brahma – the name giant does not mean they are]
To keep Orps [or any of the largest breeds] exclusively on deep litter = allow 2½mt X 2½mt PER BIRD [that is NOT
2½mt squared = that is 2½mt BY
2½mt] and make totally certain the litter is kept dry and changed about every 3-4 months – they can do well free ranging but if grown out
free ranging they will never reach their full potential size wise as the free ranging reduces the amount of protein they require for correct growth = as with all breeds, large birds need a lot of good quality feed [with about 20% protein as a guide] –
with adult birds = mid Spring up the greens thus reducing the protein to help get any Winter fat off them then mid Autumn reverse the process so they have fat stores for Winter and for showing
Make sure all roosts and nesting boxes are no higher than ½ - ¾mt [unless you want them to land with a real thump and potentially a broken leg as they WILL land with a decided THUMP – a 3yr old rooster can weigh 6+kg depending on the colour/line]
The Orpington is a heavily feathered breed and need their rears trimmed for natural breeding otherwise you need to Artificially Inseminate = not easy with such a large breed
The feathers grow back early each Autumn so you don’t need to worry about that
Of course they will eat a bit more than the smaller breeds
They require housing that allows them plenty of room to move around and will also protect them from the heat. They tend to do better in cooler climates but many are successfully breeding them where the summer temps get to 40 and sometimes above, making sure they have fridge chilled water that also has cordial bottle iceblocks in it – in my opinion no Orp owner should ever wet their birds to keep them cool = due to the amount of feathering and other factors they will most often get sick as a result – if needs be use air-conditioning to keep the air cool thus keeping them cool on days 35c and over. I have air conditioners but also use the chilled and frozen water
They are a complacent/docile breed with only the odd random ‘narky’ rooster and the rare ‘flighty’ hen.
Overall the saying “you can throw them at a brick wall and they will come back for more” applies to this breed BUT DON’T THROW THEM AT A WALL = it WILL KILL THEM !!!! I used that saying only
to indicate the overall temperament of the breed.
They look gangly and ugly as teenagers and MANY sell them off at this stage not realising they are probably selling a future best in show winner [I know someone that has done this] – the breed takes 2-3years to fully grow out and should not
start to be assessed for quality until the are 9½ to 10months old. Only culling [killing] up to that age for obvious defects
They grow out to be graceful elegant looking birds that will become very humanised if interacted with regularly and can be very long lived [one of my girls will be 19 this coming August] the roosters are viable breeders for 8-9 years the hens for as long as they are laying = at 18yrs old my elderly hen became a mother and her sister also became a mother aged 17½ yrs old]
As they grow so large I recommend the chicks are given vitamins for at least the first 5-7months – I also recommend they are fed ‘Turkey and Meat Bird Starter’ to age 9 weeks then ‘Turkey and Meat Bird Grower’ until the first egg is laid then and only then start to introduce other feed stuffs that have a lesser protein content eg: the 3 Gs = grains greens grubs
Now I KNOW I will get shot down [by some] for that statement but it DOES work much better than = “Oh but they are so cute so I give them treats” or “ I let them free range from 16 weeks but they just don’t seem to grow as well” and 9 times out of 10 then go on to say “My chicks have Cocci what do I do now?” or ‘They just haven’t grown as well as I thought they would” my answer is always the same “If you had of fed them properly to start with they would have a good resistance and they would have grown properly as well” = many hate me for saying this is the BEST way to grow out Orpingtons [std size] as they say “Oh but my OEGs or Leghorns [or what ever] really do do well if I change them at 16 weeks onto adult food” but I remind them I am NOT talking about those breeds I am talking about ORPINGTONS and they will argue for a bit longer then just shut up – as I stand my ground and keep saying Orpingtons Orpingtons Orpingtons until the breed name gets in their heads.
I exclusively feed my chicks the way I mentioned here and except for the time immediately after the heat and fires of 09 [49c during the day and 35c at night for 4 days/5 nights when I did go against my better judgement and out of desperation wet my birds] I had not experienced Cocci in any of my pens.
My birds range [as adults] from 3.5 to 5kg for a hen and 5-10.89kg for a rooster. For me it works and I am happy with the results.
Of course I am more than happy for others to come in here and put other stuff/give their opinions over mine = the more educated info here the better.